The solution is really quite straightforward. Bring together people who have skills and talent, add some tools and materials, and create a forum where people can come together to re-use and recycle their broken goods. One such concept is the Repair Café, an idea started in Holland by Martine Postma. It could be as simple as a flyer and a get-together at someone’s basement. Finding a permanent spot in a community center would provide a location for people to donate tools, or set up specialized work centers. It might be that each meeting is pre-designated to a certain type of repair. For example, one week may be woodworking – chairs with broken legs, broken drawers, wobbly tables. The flyer might call for donations of wood, tools, paint, supplies for woodworking. In fact, the meeting might move around and be convened in locations with the particular tools. I’m thinking of a Habitat program in the next town over that could be a great location for woodworking projects.
While this concept started in Holland and has spread throughout Europe( London), there are also Repair Cafes which have started up in the US – (Palo Alto, Durham, NC). It also provided a unifying concept for groups like the West Seattle Fixers, whose motto is “Fixing the World” – I might add: “one repair at a time,” or the Fixers Collective NYC, “Working together to fix the things in our lives.” While all of these focus on fixing “things,” it also helps build community, empowers people to learn skills and gain confidence in their self-reliance. In fact, the Fixers Collective describes themselves as a social experiment.
|Tools for community use - UBC|
The question often arises if these free services compete with commercial repair services. It would appear that there is no conflict. First of all, old fashioned “repair” shops are hard to find as the cost of labor increases the cost of repairs beyond a viable market point. Free labor is really the only way. These workshops help tap into skills that many of the older generation had developed, and offers them an opportunity to contribute back to society and pass along the skills to the younger generation. From and environmental standpoint, the activity of repairing items reconnects people with the value of goods and extending an item's useful service life as a way of reducing material consumption.And so I will hang on to the few things I have that just need a small repair. A very wonderful little rice cooker, that just needs a new thermocouple (or something...). A rug, that needs a bit of time and a crochet hook. Maybe I could organize a repair café ..